A southern Alberta man faces 14 charges after a highway crash Sunday evening killed four people and left a fifth in hospital.
Tyler James Stevens, 29, of Cochrane, Alta., was set to appear in court again Tuesday morning in the central Alberta community of Red Deer for a bail hearing, RCMP said.
Meanwhile, in Edmonton, coworkers and friends were mourning the deaths of the four people from the Philippines – three of them Edmonton hotel workers – and rallying around a fifth occupant of the vehicle, who survived and is in stable condition.
“The whole community is in shock. Because, you know, four at the same time? My gosh, that is horrific,” said Esmeralda Agbulos, an honorary consul for the Philippines based in Edmonton. “The community is now coming together. I’m getting calls from different groups now. And we certainly, as a community, will be united in helping these people.”
At the request of police, Ms. Agbulos and coworkers of the four dead people aren’t releasing their names as Canadian consular officials work to contact next of kin in the Philippines – a process RCMP Constable Doug Dewar expects could take until Thursday.
Just after 11 p.m. Sunday evening, RCMP say an SUV was driving north in the southbound lanes of Alberta’s Queen Elizabeth II highway, the main north-south route between Edmonton and Calgary, when it struck a southbound vehicle near Innisfail, Alta. Police believe alcohol was a factor in how the truck ended up in the divided, southbound section of the highway that snowy evening.
Four of the five people in the southbound vehicle died – two 35-year-old men, one 52-year-old woman and a 39-year-old woman.
A fifth person in the car was injured – a 28-year-old Filipino woman, who is in stable condition at an Edmonton hospital. She spoke with a coworker from the Coast Edmonton Plaza hotel, where she worked, on Monday evening. The deceased men and one of the women, though it’s not clear which one, also worked at the hotel. The other woman who died was a friend.
“The staff are devastated. They’re all friends,” said Kelli Steer, a general manager of a sister hotel who was helping at the Coast Tuesday morning. Ms. Steer declined to discuss where her hotel’s staff were heading.
Alberta relies on temporary foreign workers amid its current labour crunch. Ms. Steer couldn’t say how long each of the deceased had worked at the hotel, but said it didn’t matter.
“The contracts vary but we don’t want to bring light [the fact]that they’re foreign workers. They’re individuals and human beings at this point,” she said.
Mr. Stevens, who police allege was the driver of the SUV, was treated for minor injuries and released from hospital. RCMP say he faces four counts of impaired driving causing death, one of impaired driving causing bodily harm, four counts of being involved in a fatal collision and failing to provide a breath sample, four counts of criminal negligence in operation of a motor vehicle causing death, and one count of criminal negligence in operation of a motor vehicle causing bodily harm.
It’s the second major crash involving temporary foreign workers in Canada this year. Last month, 10 South American farm workers and a truck driver were killed in a crash in southwestern Ontario.